We were all teenagers once, desperately trying to convince the universe that we were mature and trustworthy enough to be considered an adult. Because at the time “adult” was synonymous with “no curfew” and “as much beer as you want.” Maybe with a side serving of “wearing whatever skanky-ass outfit I want, thankyouverymuch” or “turning my bass up as high as it’ll go.”
And being a grown-up does mean all those things. I can wear a miniskirt while chugging beer at 3am and nobody will tell me not to. I mean, okay, my blue-eyed husband would probably gently suggest that isn’t a good plan, but mostly because he knows how cranky I get when I’m hungover.
Still though, in general being a grown-up does involve all the freedoms your 16 year old self daydreamed about. And in some ways, those freedoms are also as fucking awesome as you imagined.
But in a lot of ways being a grown-up kind of sucks.
Some of those “rules” are in place for a reason
“When I grow up I’m going to have cake for breakfast every day!” I’m sure I proclaimed loudly to my well-intentioned mother as she patiently set healthy options before me day in and day out, ignoring all protests to the contrary. And I will admit that I totally have a soft spot for all the sugary cereal I was denied in my youth. Lucky charms are, in fact, magically delicious.
However. One day I remembered that cake-for-breakfast thing, and as I remembered it I also happened to have all the makings on hand for peach cobbler. So naturally we had had peach cobbler a la mode for breakfast, and the entire world rejoiced.
…until I realized there was a reason people normally don’t have rich desserts for breakfast. Because lying prone on a couch, debilitated from far too much butter far too early in the day just isn’t that much fun.
It’s not as fun when it’s not forbidden
When you were 19 getting your hands on even the shittiest of alcoholic products was an Olympic-level achievement. You’d gleefully do shots of vodka that tasted like rubbing alcohol, and declare afterwards that it was awesome. Finding a liquor store where they wouldn’t card you was on par with discovering a leprechaun’s pot-o-gold.
Okay, maybe you weren’t a lush like I was, but I’m sure there was something that was deliciously dangerous. Boys. Girls. Badminton.
Whatever it was, it was forbidden. Something you couldn’t tell your parents about. Something adult.
And then you turned 21. Or found a girlfriend/boyfriend that both you and your family loves. Or you joined a badminton team and turned it into a lucrative profession.
And suddenly? Not so much fun.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still love wine/beer/gin, but now I love it for how it tastes. If it’s cheap/gross/I’m not really in the mood, then I’ll pass. Like a fucking adult. And when I do drink a glass of gin I sit there and think about aromatics. I SIP THAT SHIT. And never once do I get a thrill keeping it a secret from my parents. Now I appreciate a fine wine with them. And there’s nothing more depressingly grown-up than that.
You become aware of your own mortality
Remember the first time you were allowed to drive without an adult in the car? Okay, maybe you were all responsible and shit and drove five miles under the speed limit and came to a full stop at all stop signs.
Clearly, you failed at being a teenager, and this entire argument is lost on you.
For everyone else though, you went too fast. You swerved between lanes and cut people off on the highway. You stuffed too many friends in a car with not enough seat belts and didn’t pay much attention to the road.
All that stuff is idiotic as fuck. You probably even knew that at the time. But you had no proof. Like any good scientist, you had no evidence and so you therefore felt the need to conduct experiments to determine for yourself the validity of your parents’ claims.
And most of us did eventually discover that yes, driving like a lunatic isn’t a good plan. If we’re lucky, we figured that out while laughing on a cell phone and backing into a pole or something, and just have that oh-shit-my-dad’s-gonna-kill-me moment. And not, ya know, a horrific accident going 90mph.
The point here is that eventually you’re forced to confront the fact that you’re only human. Your body is actually remarkably delicate, and the world is a dangerous place. And no matter how well you take care of yourself you will inevitably become worm food.
Which is when you start driving responsibly, eating less fried food, and resolving to go to the gym for your health, not to get killer ripped abs the ladies will love. That is the moment when a little bit of youth dies, and the world is a slightly less exciting place.
Though, to be fair, it also probably means you’re a lot safer on the road.
Two words: Student. Loans.
The first “real” job you get is amazing. Even if it’s doing something you hate, even if you have to wear a suit every day, you still get that First Big Paycheck. And you’re flush! You’ve got money to burn! You can buy those $300 shoes (or lease that shiny new car, or whatever it is that floats your personal boat)!
And then, inevitably, you discover debt.
Be it student loans or credit cards, you will eventually find yourself in a position where you owe money. Probably a fair amount of it. And your paycheck isn’t really for partying on the weekends anymore, now it’s for rent, food, and trying to get rid of that debt. If you were to lose your job tomorrow it wouldn’t mean you’d have to tone down your lifestyle; it would mean you’re screwed. Visions of debt collectors swim through your head. You suddenly realize that banks are looming establishments hell-bent on your personal destruction. And that even if you moved back in with your parents and devoted yourself to eating nothing but ramen you’d still have to pay that shit back.
And you realize you’ve made a deal with the devil, and that you can never go back to being 17 again.
Look, maybe some of this doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you’re an independently wealthy race car driver with the world’s best metabolism and a series of supermodel girlfriends. If you are, you probably didn’t even read this far. Thanks for nothing, you lucky fuck. The rest of us have to face being grown-up and making money and not crashing our cars or getting fat like a god damned responsible adult.
And while being a grown-up has some good perks (not having to listen to your mother immediately comes to mind as a major one) let’s all be honest: we didn’t know how good we had it.